Tuesday, 27 June 2017

First Potatoes Lifted

After a rather mediocre Sunday weatherwise Monday was a lovely summer's day with the temperature making it up to a pleasant 20.6C (69.1°F) it felt pleasantly warm in the afternoon sunshine.

We've emptied out a few potato bags from tubers started off in the greenhouse but to be honest I'm not very good with potato bags and we rely entirely on the potatoes grown on the allotment for our main supply. I decided it was time to try lifting a couple of roots of our first early potatoes "Casablanca" and see how they'd performed. 
Key Dates for Early Potatoes - "Casablanca"
They've had what I would consider to be a very poor growing season. A few unseasonably cold nights in mid May resulted in the foliage being frosted at which stage they didn't look too happy at all.
Casablanca Potatoes 10 May 2017
The plants recovered well but the second weather obstacle this year has been the lack of rain. We've had more than enough watering to do on the plot trying to keep seeds and seedlings watered so all our potatoes have gone unwatered.
I've highlighted the rainfall figures in the table above. I've added up the totals to save you a problem. In a normal season over the 3 month growing period our potatoes could expect 139.9mm (5.5in) of rainfall but this year that's amounted to less than half the amount at 65.8mm or 2.6in.

Although the plants looked healthy enough I wasn't expecting a large crop when I lifted the first root.
I was pleasantly surprised as there was a decent crop of potatoes considering the poor growing season they'd had. The potatoes were very clean with no pest damage or skin problems at all. At cooking time all they needed was a good wash.
They are pictured with the rest of Monday's harvest above.

When cooked the potatoes tasted great but they did boil into the water a little bit but I'm putting that down to the very dry growing conditions.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Bit Nondescript

After our spell of hot weather last week the weather has turned a bit nondescript. Neither hot nor cold but it has remained dry and it's been a bit breezy. The best in the way of rainfall that we've had is a bit of light drizzle which hasn't been any good at all for watering the garden and allotment.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 19-25 June 2017
At the allotment we're spending more time harvesting on our visits. I'm certainly not complaining about harvesting after all if you can't be bothered to harvest crops there seems to be very little point growing them in the first place. In between harvesting and watering I'm trying to tidy up the area underneath our greengage trees. It's gradually become untidy and overgrown with thistles and nettles and makes looking after the trees a rather painful operation.
The first section has been cleared and covered with weed control fabric and wood chippings. Our old broken wheelbarrow has been filled with homemade compost and planted up with self sown nasturtium volunteers which Sue found around the plot. We've a couple more bags like the one in the picture which we'll fill with compost and plant up with a few different crops and see how they get on. 
Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary http://ossettweather.blogspot.co.uk/ author M Garrett

Friday, 23 June 2017

Rain Required As Harvesting Moves Into Full Swing

The hot weather has disappeared now and temperatures have returned to more normal values for late June.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 17-23 June 2017
The hot dry weather of the first part of the week was replaced with cooler, sunnier and breezier conditions on Thursday when we visited the plot. It's not what the plot wants after a long spell with no substantial rainfall. We were in "Thunderstorm Alley" on Wednesday, according to the forecasters, as the hot weather broke down but the storms never arrived and neither did any rainfall. Overnight and early Friday morning showers have so far amounted to 0.4mm just about enough to wet the leaves rather than actually water any plants.

However, the weather forecasting models have lots of rain showing for next week. Next Thursday is looking particularly wet. Our watering problems at the allotment might be at an end if the models turn out to be correct. With a week to go there is plenty of time for things to change.
https://www.ventusky.com/  Forecast for Thursday, 29 June 2017 @ 13:00
Although the plot could do with some decent rainfall we are managing to harvest some produce. Only a few weeks ago at the end of May we had nothing at all to harvest. Now we have something to pick on most visits as we head into what we hope will be the most productive months of the year.
Our full harvesting list for June can be found here.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

And It's Over

Tuesday saw our temperatures return to more normal June values with a maximum of 21.6°C or 70.9°F. It was a bit on the muggy side and after some lovely sunny days, the sun didn't put in an appearance at all on Tuesday. It did mean that we visited the plot and did a little bit of harvesting.
We had a few of our apricots, picked on Monday, left over and together with some Elsanta strawberries and Glencoe raspberries they made a very nice dessert for dinner.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Triple Record Breaking Hot Day

Tuesday was a triple record breaking day as the temperature once again soared to 31.6°C or 88.9°F. Monday took over from Sunday as our hottest day of the year. It was also the first time I've recorded two consecutive days when the temperature has been above 30°C and it was also the equal hottest June day I've recorded since 27 June 2011.
Temperature & Solar Radiation Records for 18-20 June 2017
It's kept me busy updating my table of the top twenty hottest days. Here's the new updated version.
It wasn't a day to do much gardening more a question of keeping as cool as possible.
We did have a very quick harvesting session in our greenhouse to pick our apricots. As one had already fallen off the tree we took it as a sign that they were ready for eating. Still warm from the afternoon sunshine they tasted extremely good.

The forecast is for the weather to return to more normal temperatures so gardening activities may be about to return to normal too.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hottest This Year

Sunday turned out to be a proper scorcher with the temperature soaring to 30.5°C (86.9°F) to become our hottest day this year. 
Temperature Record for 18 June 2017
We don't manage to make it into the 30's °C or above 86°F very often. Sunday was the seventh time since I started keeping records 7 years ago. It moved into fifth place in my all time highest temperature records.
The forecast for Monday is for a repeat of the high temperatures so it may become the first time I'll record two consecutive days above 30°C.

We went to the plot on Sunday afternoon. It was far too hot to do any serious plotting and we spent much of our time there watering what is now a very dry allotment. I did trim up our kiwi plants which form a mixed fruit hedge with some gooseberries.
It looked much tidier once the long straggly shoots had been cut back. I did spot a few surprises as I trimmed back the kiwi.
Cherry - Summer Sun
I spotted this little bunch of cherries left on the tree. They must be out of the reach of the wood pigeons as they've devastated the rest of the tree including most of the leaves. Maybe I'll try to cover these few remaining cherries or the blackbirds will finish them off as soon as they start to turn red.

I didn't think that there were any gooseberries but underneath all the kiwi foliage I discovered some rather nice looking berries.
I also spotted some kiwi flowers as I pruned back the long shoots.
We have two kiwi plants, a male and female and as is usual only the female plant has produced any flowers. In which case it probably means that we won't get any kiwi fruits but who knows we may be successful one year.

Now I must be honest and say a good downpour would be much appreciated as it would save us an awful lot of watering both at home and on the plot.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A Whisker Away

Saturday was a whisker away from being our hottest day of the year as the temperature reached 28.3°C (82.9°F) but not quite managing to top the 28.6°C (83.5°F) on the 25 May.
Temperature Records 19 May - 17 June 2017
The forecast is for more hot weather over the next few days with the chance that record set in May will be broken.

We had a couple of days away in the north east visiting Beamish Museum and Tanfield Railway.
Beamish Museum - Pockerley Old Hall
Tanfield Railway
We've got plenty of photos and video to sort out from our visits. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Hot and Dry

Wednesday was the hottest day of the month as the afternoon temperature rose to 26.5°C or 79.7°F. It didn't take over the hottest day of the year which is still the 25 May 2017 when the temperature reached 28.6°C or 83.5°F.
Temperature & Rainfall Records 01-14 June 2017
However, rainfall so far this month has been on the sparse side with only 24.0mm (0.9 in) to date. Following on from drier than average April and May the garden and allotment are certainly on the dry side and in need of watering. On the plot I thought that this month's rainfall might be enough to allow me to cultivate one of the beds that we want to grow some winter brassicas in. If you remember I posted a photo of the cracks in the ground due to the dry conditions.
photo taken on 02 June 2017
The little bit of rain this month hadn't done much to help but at least I managed to get the cultivator to break up the surface of the soil.
The cultivator certainly found the ground hard to work to the full depth of the tines so my next job will be to work over the bed using a fork to loosen up the ground below before hopefully using the cultivator to complete the job. I've got a few weeks left to get this done before our winter brassicas need planting out. We might even get some decent rainfall to help me out before then.

I've made a video showing the progress our potatoes are making on the allotment. They've recovered well from the frost damage they had in early May.




Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Another of Those Days

Monday was a poor day considering we're heading towards mid June. A little bit of light rain in the morning was just enough to wet the ground and it was accompanied by a very strong breeze. Not up to the gale force winds of last week but it was enough to put us off an allotment visit.

It did give me a chance to finish editing some video of our plot greenhouse which is in the process of transitioning from plant propagation unit into its summer mode of growing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.


I think our resident blackbird might now be raising a second brood of young. The first youngsters are still about in the garden making use of the feeding and washing facilities we provide.
I think this is one of the youngsters taking a bath this morning. However, the adult blackbirds are still flying in and out of our camellia bush so I'm presuming more chicks can be expected.

Monday, 12 June 2017

A Tasty Treat

It was another blustery day on Sunday but nothing like the gales of mid-week. Some decent sunny spells were spoilt by the strong breeze. It wasn't very welcome after the gale force winds of last week.
Temperature & Hi Wind Speed Records for 11 June 2017
However, it was one of those days that make you aware of why you "grow your own" despite the setbacks that weather conditions and pests throw at you. On our visit to the allotment on Saturday, we harvested some calabrese and strawberries. 


I emptied out our sack of Casablanca potatoes growing in our home greenhouse to make way for growing peppers and aubergines through summer. Three potato tubers were planted in the sack on 02 March 2017 and had been left in the greenhouse to do their own thing. They'd got very leggy and certainly hadn't flowered but I decided to harvest them in any case.

The results were a little disappointing but we had enough potatoes for Sunday dinner. The main problem was that the compost in the sack had become extremely dry and no amount of watering helped as the water merely ran down the inside of the bag and out of the drainage holes in the bottom.
Growing Record for Potatoes & Calabrese

Just out of interest, I've included my growing records for the sack of potatoes and calabrese. We've still got more calabrese heads to harvest and then with a little bit of luck we'll have some tasty side shoots too. Once we've harvested all our calabrese I'll enter the total weight of the crop in the table.

For Sunday dinner we had home grown potatoes "Casablanca" with a helping of calabrese "Aquiles" followed by "Cambridge Favourite" strawberries for dessert. It was a reminder of why we go to the trouble of "growing our own" and hopefully the harvesting season is only just beginning. 


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Extra Support

The weather's not been too bad since the gale force winds died down although Saturday morning has started off on a damp note.
Temperature & Rainfall 08-10 June 2017
We had a visit to the plot on a sunny Friday afternoon to see if we could undo some of the damage caused by the mid week gales. If only there was an undo button! The easiest job looked to be the cornflowers which now had a very dramatic lean.
We decided to use some of remaining coppiced hazel poles to create a frame. The difficulty is actually getting the hazel poles into the ground which remains stubbornly concrete-like despite some recent rainfall. Using my trusty wooden leek dibber knocked into the ground with a sledge hammer some poles were eventually coaxed into the ground.
A rustic looking framework of hazel poles completed, the cornflowers were a little bit more upright. I've still got to fathom out what to do about our cardoons or indeed if much can be done to recover them at all. They may have to remain as they are for the rest of the summer. The flowers, much adored by the bees, will still open even though the plants themselves have been blown about and spoilt by the wind.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Storm Damage

Tuesday and Wednesday were windy, very windy especially considering it's June.
Temperature & Hi Wind Speed Records 05-07 June 2017
The gale force wind abated almost as suddenly as it arrived but according to the weather forecast it should have died down much sooner than it actually did. We did get some rain mixed in with the gale force winds but it was a bit of a mixed blessing as I'm sure the wind has done more damage than a few more days of dry weather would do.

I'd seen the weather forecast so when we were on the plot late on Monday evening I took a little bit of video of our cardoon plants. Even if I say so myself they were looking pretty impressive on Monday but I'm aware that they don't deal with strong winds very well.
It or rather they as we do have two plants standing well over 6 feet or 2 metres tall so I've never really considered any form of staking for them. Maybe from now on I should but for this year I think it might be a little bit too late.
This is the same plant after it had been battered by the gale force winds for a couple of days. I'm considering what measures to take to see the cardoon through the rest of summer.

At least the cardoon isn't a productive vegetable for us as we've never quite worked out which bit of the plant we would use as a vegetable. The storm has damaged some of our crops ranging from breaking smaller branches on fruit trees to snapping our newly planted sweet corn plants.

I'm in the process of editing a video of the damage the winds caused on our plot which I will post as soon as it is processed. For now though. it's nice to be having some light rain without a gale force wind accompanying it.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I Thought It Was Summer!

Tuesday would have been a grim wet and windy day had it been in October or November but given it was the beginning of June it made it even worse. The morning was wet and windy but through the afternoon, evening and the night the morning's strong wind became gale force.
Temperature & Hi Wind Speed Records for 06 June 2017
A gust of wind in the afternoon reached 29.0mph at 15:45 becoming the strongest I've recorded since beginning my records in 2010. The previous highest was 27.0mph on 02 June 2015. 
The wind hasn't abated overnight either and is continuing through Wednesday morning which has seen another record equalling gust of 29mph at 05:10. The garden has been on the receiving end of a real battering for over 24 hours.

I'm planning on a visit to the plot on Wednesday afternoon to assess any damage there from the gales.
Rather oddly on Wednesday morning we have blue sky and fluffy white clouds with a gale force wind. It's not very warm either with the current temperature at 13°C (55°F) at 09:20. Hopefully, the weather will improve a little as the day progresses starting with the gale force wind abating. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

I Want It All!

Well I did blog about wanting some rain and that has arrived but what I didn't want with it was the accompanying gale force winds.
The roses which have just come into flower are taking a battering from the wind. The heads are bending over as they become heavy with water and the wind is stripping off the petals or in some cases the entire flower head.

The alliums too were almost at their best but in the wind they are now leaning over at a rather precarious angle.
Once again I think it's a combination of water and strong wind that the stem is unable to cope with. I'm hoping they'll straighten up provided the wind abates soon.
Temperature, Rainfall & Hi Wind Speed Records 05/06 June 2017
The wind picked up this morning and has continued to strengthen into Tuesday Afternoon. The temperature is doing the opposite and continuing to fall. By the middle of the afternoon it is down to 11°C or 52°F. (The storm total is the amount of rainfall without a 24 hour spell of dry weather.)

It's a good job we put in a late shift at the allotment on Sunday as it looks as though it might be a while before we make another visit. I did manage to make a video of our allotment progress before we left on Sunday. 



Monday, 5 June 2017

How Firm Is Firm

Now I know that brassicas like to be planted in firm ground but I'm assuming that the bed I'd like to use for our winter brassicas is a little bit too firm.
This is how the ground looked on Sunday afternoon. I've been waiting for a few weeks now for a suitable opportunity to get this bed dug over but there's not much chance of that happening until we get some decent rainfall. The ground has gradually got dryer and dryer over the last two months as any rainfall has been so light that it's done nothing more than moisten the top of the soil. The good news is, if a forecast of rain can be good news, that plenty of rain is forecast over the next week.
https://www.ventusky.com
The chart shown above is repeated on several days through this week as rainfall comes in off the Atlantic Ocean and passes over the UK. We will have to wait and see if the forecast turns out to be correct.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

In Broad Daylight!

Friday was another of those damp days when it tried to rain at times but never managed anything of any use.
Temperature & Rainfall Record for 02 June 2017
I say it's of no use as far as watering the garden goes but it seems it's just what our snails love. That record of rainfall at 11:30 on the chart above took most of the morning to accumulate but it meant that plant leaves were damp all morning.  The condition meant the snails couldn't resist the temptation to graze our front garden even in broad daylight.
No need to go out in the dead of night with a torch to collect the marauding minibeasts this was just after lunch as we were getting ready to visit the allotment for the afternoon.
They were collected up and disposed of in the garden waste bin. The two heading up the side of the bucket making a bid for freedom didn't make it. They've a week in the bin with our green waste before it's collected for composting.

It's a constant battle trying to keep young seedlings from being eaten by what seems to be ever increasing numbers of slugs and snails.